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Alimony in North Carolina


My spouse and I are divorcing, am I entitled to or do I have to pay my spouse alimony? 


North Carolina law provides that a “dependent spouse” may receive alimony from a “supporting spouse” if it would be equitable considering the enumerated factors set forth in N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A.


However, there are restrictions on one’s right to claim alimony and an alimony award in not automatic.  You should consult an attorney to advise you prior to making any legal decisions during your legal separation or divorce.  Failure to do so may result in you permanently losing your right to make certain legal claims, including alimony.


Are you a “Dependent Spouse?


"Dependent spouse" means a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his or her maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.  N.C.G.S. § 50-16.1A(2)


Are you a “Supporting Spouse?


"Supporting spouse" means a spouse, whether husband or wife, upon whom the other spouse is actually substantially dependent for maintenance and support or from whom such spouse is substantially in need of maintenance and support.  N.C.G.S. § 50-16.1A(5).


What is “Marital misconduct?”


“Marital misconduct” is defined by N.C.G.S. § 50-16.1A(3), and not only includes infidelity during the marriage and prior to the date of separation but also a variety of other acts and omissions.  Marital misconduct must be proven by the party asserting the act of misconduct.  A very brief statutory overview of acts of marital misconduct are outlined below.


Marital misconduct is:


  • Voluntary sexual acts or behavior, including sexual intercourse, with someone other than your spouse during the marriage and prior to the date of separation;

  • Involuntary separation of the spouses due to a criminal act;

  • Abandonment;

  • Maliciously turning your spouse out-of-doors;

  • Cruel or barbarous treatment endangering the life of the other spouse;

  • Indignities rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;

  • Reckless spending, waste, or hiding of assets;

  • Excessive use of alcohol or drugs rendering the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome;

  • Willful failure to provide necessary subsistence according to one's means and condition so as to render the condition of the other spouse intolerable and life burdensome.


What if my spouse, who is a supporting spouse, was unfaithful to me during our marriage?


North Carolina law provides that if the court finds that the supporting spouse participated in an act of illicit sexual behavior, during the marriage and prior to or on the date of separation, then the court shall order that alimony be paid to a dependent spouse.  N.C.G.S. § 50-16.1A(a).


How much alimony am I entitled to and for how long?


The amount of alimony awarded and duration of the award is within the discretion of the court.  There are several factors set forth by N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A(b)(3) that the court must consider when making a determination of the amount and duration of alimony.  Additionally, an alimony award is not automatically distributed.  Rather, the party asserting the claim for alimony has to prove that he or she is entitled to an award under the law.  This is either done by agreement or by filing suit asserting a claim for alimony.  Then the party asserting an alimony claim must prove one or more of the following factors.


Some, not all, of the enumerated factors provided by N.C.G.S. § 50-16.3A(b)(3) include:

  • The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the spouses;

  • The duration of the marriage;

  • The earning capacities of both spouses

  • The standard of living established during the marriage;

  • The contributions of one spouse as a homemaker;

  • The extent to which the earning power, expenses, or financial obligations of a spouse will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;

  • The contributions by one spouse to the other’s education, training or increased earning power;

  • The assets and liabilities of both spouses;

  • The relative needs of the spouses;

  • Tax considerations, etc.


Furthermore, the ability of your spouse to pay alimony is also of consideration for the court in making an award of alimony. 


Contact our office to make an appointment to discuss pursuing or defending your alimony claim.


Legal Disclaimer:

All legal summaries contained, herein, are intended for educational purposes only and not intended to act as a substitute for personalized legal advice by competent counsel.  Although every attempt has been made to provide accurate legal summaries, the law continues to change and the most recent changes to the law may not be reflected herein.   Always consult an attorney for up to date and personalized legal advice.

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